What a way to christen the newly remodeled Lobero Theatre! On Friday night, at the third annual Notes for Notes Benefit Concert, an amazing group of announced and unannounced artists joined together to deliver a true Show for the Ages.
In the process, a significant amount of money was raised for the Santa Barbara-based Notes for Notes organization, which is expanding into new locales with its admirable mission of providing musical instruments, instruction and facilities to young musicians.
Holding the proceedings together were Jimmy Vivino and the Basic Cable Band, whose regular gig is as Conan O'Brien's TV show band. They kicked it off with some up-tempo, horn-driven numbers, culminating in a rousing (and slightly sanitized) version of James Brown's "Sex Machine," sung by wild-man trumpeter Mark Pender.
Next up, Santa Barbara's guitar pickup guru/Notes for Notes patron saint Seymour Duncan and L.A.-based axeman Johnny Hawthorn came out for a sweet guitar jam. They were then joined by singer Shari Puorto for a great version of "Going Down," in a Jeff Beck Group-style arrangement.
The first big surprise came next, with the unbilled Alan Parsons performing "Sirius," "Eye in the Sky" and "Don't Answer Me." Parsons, who now calls Santa Barbara home, has been a generous supporter of local charities, including giving a benefit concert two years ago for the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Barbara at the same venue, a charity that has strong ties with Notes for Notes. Parsons' longtime guitarist — and another Santa Barbara local — Alastair Greene joined in.
Then there was another big surprise — unbilled Eagles guitarist Don Felder graced the audience with a cover of Stevie Ray Vaughan's "Pride and Joy" and one of the all-time great rock songs, "Hotel California," which Felder co-wrote. Hearing Felder's solo at the end of the latter song, which many like me can sing along to virtually note for note, was almost a religious experience.
And that was just the show before the intermission!
The second half of the concert kicked off with Robert Randolph, a bluesy lap steel guitar virtuoso who brought high energy and Bo Diddley into the mix — and the crowd to its feet. Who could possibly top that? One word: Slash.
Slash first rocked the musical universe as lead guitarist for Guns N' Roses, and he played with Velvet Revolver, Slash's Snakepit, and is currently pursuing a solo career. He is recognized as one of rock music's all-time greatest guitarists, and if memory serves, almost single-handedly brought the Gibson Les Paul guitar back into vogue in the late 1980s. With his signature curly hair and black top hat, he was a commanding presence at the Lobero.
Slash was in a bluesy/funky mode, starting off with an acoustic duet cover of Robert Johnson's "Ramblin' On My Mind" with Vivino, then plugging in and giving his wah pedal a workout for a cover of The Temptations' "Papa Was a Rolling Stone."
During the latter, while the band kept the funky groove going, Slash's guitar was signed by the notable guitarists onstage and was auctioned off. When the bidding stalled around $5,500, Randolph decided to throw in his guitar as well, bringing the take for Notes for Notes up to $8,000. Well played!
This song also featured some fine soloing from 15-year-old Notes for Notes Hall of Fame inductee Chimaway Lopez.
Just when it seemed the evening was over, Slash wanted to do one more song, and the band launched into a smokin' cover of The Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter." Special kudos go out to Puorto for belting out the background vocals made famous by Merry Clayton.
Another star of the evening was the remodeled Lobero Theatre, which looks and sounds absolutely great. The Notes for Notes Benefit Concert was the perfect way to show it off for the first time.
— Jeff Moehlis is a Noozhawk contributing writer and a professor of mechanical engineering at UC Santa Barbara. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his web site, music-illuminati.com. The opinions expressed are his own.